Muay Thai is one of the most respected mixed martial arts disciplines, with it being used by many stars in the world of UFC and Bellator. However, it has come a long way in a short amount of time to achieve the recognition that it has in this modern day. The ‘art of eight limbs’ recently gained Olympic recognition. This means someday soon, it may be a sport that has medals on the line at the most important sporting event in the world. However, where does the history of the sport come from, and how has it evolved over time?
It is unknown how long Muay Thai has been practised in Thailand, but it only gained prominence when it was introduced to the western world in the late 20th century. Compared to other mixed martial arts, it took a longer time for westerners to become aware of the significance of the discipline.
There are, of course, various similarities between Muay Thai and other disciplines, with the closest similarities being drawn to a number of Indian styles. Styles such as Muay Boran, Muay Lao and Tomoi are all closest similar. It is believed that Muay Thai was actually developed from the Muay Boran style.
The popularity of Muay Thai reached new heights in Thailand in 1868, as King Chulalongkorn was on the throne. This is still revered as the golden age for the sport in its homeland, as the popularity and progression of the sport increased due to the king’s interest in the sport personally. The MMA discipline was mainly used during this time for self-defence and personal achievement.
Significant Moments In History
In 1919, Muay Thai was added as part of the Suan Kulap College curriculum. It was joined by boxing in that regard, as students were taught about both forms of self-defence. During this period, judo was also gaining popularity, but wasn’t as highly regarded as the two that were part of the curriculum. Two years later and there were initial signs of the competitive nature of the sport being introduced. In 1921, the first ring was built at the college, which was used for Muay Thai and boxing bouts.
Two years later, the first stadium for competition was built in Suan. The ring had three ropes, and had red and blue padded corners, which would have looked something like rings do in this modern era. It was used for both boxing and Muay Thai. The progression of Muay Thai continued under the rule of King Rama VII, as rules for the sport were introduced, including the introduction of a referee and timed rounds of fighting. It was also around this period that the term ‘Muay Thai’ was used more regularly, instead of Thai boxing.
The height of the sport’s popularity came in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as fighters that were involved in the biggest Muay Thai fights demanded bigger purses for their bouts. The range of payment is unknown, but it was reported that the biggest stars could get up to 200,000 baht per match. In 1993, the first governing body of the sport was introduced, as the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur was born. While this was the governing body for the amateurs, the professional equivalent was introduced just two years later, as the World Muaythai Council was established.
Continued Popularity & Olympic Recognition
The popularity of the sport continued throughout the 90s, which led to the two governing bodies forming to create the World Muay Thai Federation. Its progression has continued with a growing number of countries joining the federation, with the current number standing at over 70.
Its involvement in world competitions also continued to grow. In 2014 Muay Thai was added to the International World Games Association competitions. Muay Thai was first introduced in the World Games back in 2017, when the event was held in Poland. Nowadays, the discipline is practised all over the world, with nearly 4,000 Muay Thai gyms outside of Thailand.
Gaining Olympic recognition was also something that governing bodies wanted to achieve, and its bid for that recognition was launched following a request to the International Olympic Committee in 2012. However, the sport needed to wait four years before getting its first endorsement. Regardless, we could be entering a time where Muay Thai could be seen at the Olympics in the future, as early this year, it was granted full recognition by the IOC General Assembly.
Bettors can make wagers on the biggest Muay Thai competitions from around the world, just as they would at the Thai Casino Center. However, the biggest event could be yet to be introduced, as an Olympic Muay Thai event would undoubtedly be the peak for this MMA style.